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Essex Farm Note

Week 44, 2015

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High winds, hard frosts, and then two inches of rain this week, as the tail of Hurricane Patricia swept over us. The new drainage is working hard, pulling water from the saturated field. When the wind shifted to the south, Mark put on his heaviest wetsuit and headed to the lake and his tattered old windsurfer. Nothing makes him happier than a few hours spent near the brink of disaster, getting blown all over the lake and periodically crushed by waves.

Back on land, milk production is ramping up quickly. We are milking twice a day, and there is a pen of calves to take care of along with their fresh mamas, so Lindsey and Ashley Outlaw have been more or less living in the west barn and the milkhouse for the last couple of weeks, with a rotation of farmers taking afternoon and weekend milking. The cows are transitioning from grass to hay, and you might taste that transition in the milk. Most of them choose poor pasture over good 1st cut hay in the field, even if it means eating plants that they usually ignore. Some plants that the cows deemed unpalatable before frost are now palatable, while the grasses that were favorites earlier in the season are now either gone or devoid of taste and nutrition. Unusual weeds make for unusual flavors in the milk. Then, last weekend, one cow, Kite, had breath that smelled ever so slightly of nail salon. She had a touch of ketosis, a metabolic condition that happens when a cow is not taking in enough energy (carbohydrate) to support what’s going out in the form of milk, and begins to burn up fat instead of glucose. The byproduct of this process is acetone – nail polish remover. A really ketotic cow will not have any appetite, which sends her into a downward spiral from which she must be plucked with a dose of glucose. Kite, however, readily ate the hay and grain that Ben offered her in the barn and is eating well in the field. Still, it was a clear sign we needed to get more feed into the cows, so we are giving them all the 2nd cut hay they will eat, and some organic grain at milking time. We would like to see more fat on them before winter comes on hard, plus a little grain and good hay should help even out the taste of the milk.

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All the potatoes went through the sorting rig this week, and the strange, the small, the green, and the rotten ones were sorted out, while the sound ones were bagged and stacked in the basement of the house. There is a particular smell to potato sorting, thanks to those rotten ones, which end up smashed around the driveway in purple, white and red splotches. It is fetid, but not altogether unpleasant, because it signifies the harvest is home. Half of the carrots are still in the field, along with the beets. The harvest was so good we are out of storage space – a fine problem if you have to have one. Mark is working a reconfigured set of refrigerated trailers in the barnyard, with help from Jonathon Pribble and his crew, and Mark Bimonte, our member and refrigeration genius. Until it is finished, the roots can stay in the ground, but a pallet of meat is heading to temporary frozen storage in Vermont.

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Remember, there will be an Election Night Dinner at the Grange on Tuesday, eat in or take out, and also, the Pink Pig is now serving tacos in Essex every Thursday at 5pm. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this don’t-forget-to-vote 44th week of 2015.  –Kristin & Mark Kimball

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Mary waiting for the school bus to spit out the younger child.

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Wheat has germinated but not yet emerged.

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Small tool for a big field! The I&J cultivator, at rest, after Kirsten, Taylor and the horses used it to loosen the ground for planting garlic.

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Beets, awaiting harvest.

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The kohlrabi is so good this year it makes you want to dance. Carrying it around the field by the leaves made me feel like a headhunter with a trophy.

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There’s our hard-won Winterbore kale! That seed was so hard to find this spring. I love this variety – it will stay green out there until snow flies, and more.

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Miranda and Mark inspecting the field corn, which is getting closer to dry. I’m using it to make pozole for team dinner tonight. The squirrels have discovered how good it is, too.

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